Holding Court: Winners In Sheep’s Clothing

We've all heard the expression "A wolf in sheep's clothing," right? Well, up on the docket today in the CBR Court are a few teams who've been accused of being "Winners in sheep's clothing" from week one.

What does that accusation mean? Simply that they've been accused of winning but not really being that good and in the end they could well end up not being Top 25 teams come seasons end.

The list of defendants this week on the CBR docket include the following teams:

  • Florida Gators
  • Wisconsin Badgers
  • Stanford Cardinal

So, let's hear the cases and get things going as the gavel sounds here in the CBR courtroom. Verdicts will be rendered as "Winners in Sheep's Clothing" or Winners.

Up first, the case of the Florida Gators:

The Case For "Winners in sheep's clothing:"

Florida won their game in week one, but they did so in less than convincing fashion at home in the swamp against a mediocre at best MAC school in Bowling Green. 

Hell, even their offensive coordinator didn't care much for what he witnessed (avert your children's eyes for this rant): 

Yep, that offense led by Jeff Driskell or Jacoby Brissett is T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E with an extra capital T.

Against Bowling Green the Gators racked up a ton of yards on the ground, but that was thanks to a career best day from Mike Gillisee (148 yards). It's not like we were talking about the team rushing for 220 yards against the likes of South Carolina or LSU here, it was Bowling Green, who happened to rank 104th against the run nationally last year. Not exactly impressive numbers.

Not only that, but you let the Falcons hang around until the 4th quarter and it was done at The Swamp no less.

The Case Against:

The Gators are working out some kinks at quarterback and that may have contributed to the lack of a great offensive game, but they will figure it out. They clearly have a running back capable of big time stats in Mike Gillisee and while the QB situation gets figured out he's more than ready to take the load and carry the offense.

Not only that, but the defense really isn't that bad. After all, they did hold Bowling Green to 4-for-17 on 3rd down attempts in the game and forced two turnovers.

If they can continue to force teams to come off the field punting or kicking field goals instead of touchdowns this team can be very successful. 

Not to mention, this is the school that won a national championship while using Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in a rotation, so it can be done.

Verdict: Winners in Sheep's Clothing

Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett are no Chris Leak and Tim Tebow and the numbers against a crappy Bowling Green team don't impress me at all. I fully expect this team to struggle to make it to .500 in the SEC this season, one that could start off with a loss to aTm this weekend.

Now it's time to hear the case of the Wisconsin Badgers.

The Case For "Winners in Sheep's Clothing."

Wisconsin barely hung on to beat an FCS opponent at home by five points. That alone should be enough of a reason why they should be considered "Winners in sheep's clothing," but I'll give you a look inside that victory for further evidence.

Montee Ball needed 32 carries to pull off 120 yards rushing, averaging a paltry 3.8 yards a carry. That's simply not going to get it done for an offense that's breaking in up to five new players as starters. 

Also, Bucky had issues turning redzone opportunities into touchdowns, settling for field goals twice in the narrow win.

Add in the fact that the defense got beat by the exact same play twice in a matter of a few possessions for big UNI touchdowns and you have a recipe for disaster waiting to happen for this team.

The Case Against:

Danny O'Brien went 19-23 for 215 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. Those numbers are damn efficient and can win you games at Wisconsin.

The Badgers also seemed to be playing offense with the training wheels on so to speak, so expect the offense to really open up and when it does for O'Brien to excel and this team to score a lot of points once again.

What about the less than stellar running game? Well, again, breaking in three new starters takes a bit of time in game to develop the right chemistry, give it a week or two and there's no reason the line won't be opening huge holes for Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon.

Also, the mistakes made by the Badgers on defense are completely correctable ones and they still have amazing play makers in Chris Borland and Mike Taylor. 

Verdict: Winners

Yes, there were issues that need to be resolved from their week one win, but this was a team that didn't let the Panthers of Northern Iowa into the Wisconsin half of the field for nearly three quarters of the game and held them to 47 yards rushing. It's not like it was all bad in week one.

If they continue to not adjust to mistakes or get beat by the same plays late in games then we could be talking about a whole different scenario here, but as for now the evidence points to this still being a quality football team.

Up last on the docket of cases is that of the #21 Stanford Cardinal.

The Case For "Winners in Sheep's Clothing:"

Welcome to the post-Andrew Luck era for the Cardinal. It sure wasn't pretty in week one against a very week San Jose State opponent. If you're a Stanford fan you can't be too pleased with what you saw from the defensive side of the ball or really from your quarterback.

Josh Nunes wen just 16-26 and averaged a paltry 4.8 yards per pass – that's simply not going to get it done, whether it's SJSU or Wazzu your playing against.

Oh and one of the better running backs in the country, Stepfan Taylor, only rushed for 118 yards against a defense that returned just four starters from a unit rated 106th against the run last year.

The defense also allowed a first time starting QB at the FBS level to go 24 of 35 for 216 yards, with an offensive line that can best be described as mediocre.

The Case Against:

People are vastly underestimating this San Jose State team – stats don't always tell the whole story. It's like this was a team that didn't win last season either. They did finish 5-7 and they also lost three games by a field goal or less last year, so they are vastly improving.

So, credit them as an up and coming team for sure, but also look at the fact that we played mistake free football and we didn't have to count on just one player to turn this game around in our favor.

Defensively the effort was pretty darn solid, holding the Spartans to just 72 yards rushing as a team for the game. 

There is room for improvement, no doubt about it, but this is a brand new era and sometimes kinds need to be worked out.

Verdict: Winner

Expecting this team to be a BCS game contender was a bit much if you ask me and frankly I like the defensive effort big time against a vastly underrated Spartans team that could wind up bowl eligible when all is said and done in 2012.

I'm willing to cut a team that was breaking in brand new players at both the quarterback and wide receiver positions a bit of slack because they at least showed signs of being capable of making big plays when it counts.

Overall, these three teams need to really prove on the field that week one was an anomaly by beating better opponents in week two. If they do so, we may have judged them all too quickly, but the verdicts rendered here can only be appealed at the halfway mark of the season – so look out for us to revisit this at a later time too.

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!